To diagnose TBI, health care providers may use one or more tests that assess a person's physical injuries, brain and nerve functioning, and level of consciousness. Some of these tests are described below.
The GCS measures a person's functioning in three areas:
A health care provider rates a person's responses in these categories and calculates a total score. A score of 13 and higher indicates a mild TBI, 9 through 12 indicates a moderate TBI, and 8 or below indicates severe TBI.1 However, there may be no correlation between initial GCS score and the person's short- or long-term recovery or abilities.2
Health care providers sometimes rank the person's level of consciousness, memory loss, and GCS score.
A TBI is considered mild if:
NICHD-supported research has found, however, that diagnosis of mild TBI (concussion), in practice, uses inconsistent criteria and relies heavily on patients’ self-reported symptoms.3
A TBI is considered moderate if:
A TBI is considered severe if:
Health care providers may also use tests that take images of a person's brain. These include, but are not limited to:
A severe trauma may be obvious in a military situation, but a milder TBI may not be as easy to identify. The U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs have therefore established procedures to assess quickly whether the person suffered:
This assessment, combined with other measures, helps determine the type of care necessary, including evacuation for a higher level of treatment.7 Read more about TBI in the military and assessing mild TBI in combat and among veterans .
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